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  • Andrew T Schwab 10:26 pm on October 23, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , embrace change, honest conversations, instruction, laptop carts, netbooks   

    Safe Places 

    I just read Paul Yip‘s blog post “A Question of Vision” answering a question about how to keep Laptop Carts up and running. Two things struck home for me in Paul’s response. First, the honest conversations about how to use technology in the classroom are not happening enough. And Second, while my school has had several rounds of PD in differentiated instruction, EL instructional strategies, classroom instructional strategies, building PLCs, etc.. technology was not featured prominently in them. Technology PD has been mostly separate from Instructional PD and as the IT guy and a Teacher I’m now seeing that as an area I need to start addressing.

    Getting back to Laptops in the classroom. By definition introducing new technology into a classroom should change how a teacher teaches. It should change what, when and where teacher’s teach. It should change teachers as teachers. If it doesn’t, then it’s a wasted use of limited school funds. So yes, the discussions need to take place. I remember when we put four computers in every classroom seven years ago, the reactions from teachers ran the gambit from “take them out now, I will never use them and I need the space” to “I can’t use them, there are only four” to “Awesome!”. Back then we did not really have the conversations that we should have and so some teachers embraced the change while others stacked it on a shelf and left it to obsolete itself.

    Now as we are about to deploy netbooks into our ninth grade Math and English classrooms, I’m wondering if the conversations we’ve had this time around have been enough. I hope these teachers truly understand what is in store for them as they work to integrate technology into their classrooms in a radically different way than they have seen in the past. I also hope that the administration recognizes the support these teachers will need in order to successfully integrate this new technology into their classrooms and are committed to providing it.

    I’m also concerned that the CA budget cuts have pushed most Teachers back into their “safe” places. The trend I’m seeing now is to resist change and hold the status quo. When it comes to technology, this is not how Teachers need to be thinking. Students are getting more and more wired and tech savvy every year. We should at least be meeting them half way if not flat out running to get ahead.

    Technology in the classroom should not be a zero-sum game. It should not be about taking something away and replacing it with something else. It should be about building on what is already working while trying something different, taking risks, experimenting and making changes in an effort to engage every student. Teachers can’t wait for the perfect recipe of technology and curriculum to start teaching in the present. The budget crisis offers the perfect opportunity to have frank conversations about what is and is not important in the classroom, about what Technology can and cannot do and about why we teach and what and how we teach it. Instead I am afraid the budget crisis has pushed people back into the safety of their old ways, isolated them further in their classrooms as they try to hold onto what they have. We should all be taking a hard look at where we are and looking forward to where we need to be. Technology in the classroom is not going away anytime soon. Unless of course CA runs out of money.

  • Andrew T Schwab 12:33 pm on December 14, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , acer, , , netbooks, one to one   

    Netbooks, netbooks and more netbooks 

    In case you haven’t heard (and I doubt you have) we here at Le Grand have embarked on a grand netbook experiment.  Its a funny thing really because up until a year ago we didn’t have any plans to deploy netbooks on campus.  But then something happened.  Something wonderful.  Acer sent us seed units for free.  No POs to sign, no paperwork of any kind.  Just a quick phone call, would you like to try a netbook, yes?  We’ll ship it right out.  No muss, no fuss.  And then, they did it again.  And as if by magic our little district had 4 netbooks to try, for what seemed like forever.  And even better, if we wanted to keep them, we paid 1/2 price and if not, we just shipped them back.  It was so easy, so simple, so impossibly friendly it put a big warm fuzzy feeling in my heart every time I saw one of those little Acers tucked under someone’s arm as they walked around campus.  That warm fuzzy feeling was so great that when it came time to order netbooks for our pilot project, we unanimously decided on Acer.  Afterall we had been using them for several months, hassle free and we didn’t exactly have time to go out and test a whole bunch of different netbooks.  You know how planning goes in School Districts.  We’ve got money, the end of the year is here.  Buy them, NOW!

    Cut to present day and we are considering expanding our pilot into more classes.  This time we do have the time to look at alternatives, after all we know what the Acers can do.  We’ve lived with them for almost a year now.  What we don’t know is what else is out there and given how rapidly Acer changes models it would be nice to settle on something a bit more stable.  But so far there has been no warm fuzzy feeling from any of the other vendors.  In fact it has been the opposite.  Everyone wants a PO and a trial period.  Dell wants their netbook back in 21 days, CDWG is better and will send me anything for a 30 day hands-on.  Lenovo wants me to call them back.  I already sent an email saying I wanted to tryout something similar to an Acer D250, thank you, do we really need to talk?  Can’t you just send something out?

    I want it to be easy.  Easy like Acer.  I don’t have time for POs and keeping track of deadlines on trial periods.  These things are cheap.  Why not just seed them out?  Is one unit really going to hurt you?  Spread some good will and cheer this Holiday season and let us spend a few months getting to know your netbook.  Acer did and those 4 units that we had in hand for months and eventually paid for turned into 60 units purchased at full price and left us with a tendency to buy Acer first.  In fact if Acer could just keep a model number for longer than 3 months, I’d probably not even be looking at alternatives right now.  But I am curious.  I would like to see what else is out there, I mean we are talking potentially hundreds of units moving forward and some hardware consistency would be nice.

    I am not asking for a free handout.  But I am asking for free from hassle, easy, simple, a call or an email and it arrives one day ready to be used and abused.  Willing to stay for a long term commitment.  I’m not going to make a decision based on a few weeks of hand holding.  Given today’s budget, do I spend the few dollars we have looking at alternatives or do I save that money and buy more Acers and just deal with the model changes?  Acer hooked us with their seed program and it seems like no one else is really interested in our business.   So what is a small school district to do?

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